Is My Daughter Anorexic?

Dear Sara,

My daughter is seventeen and a senior in high school. She has a boyfriend who is a freshman in college. They have been dating about a year. Her boyfriend came to me and told me in confidence that he thinks that my daughter has anorexia. I’ll admit that she has lost weight and is very thin but I didn’t think of her as unhealthy. What kinds of things do I need to look for and what can I do if I feel that she has this problem?

Dear Kevin,

You might want to start with a weigh-in for your daughter to determine just how much weight she has lost. If she has lost 25% of her original body weight (if she weighed 120lbs and went down to 90lbs) then she may have a problem with anorexia. I have heard of girls who wore several layers of clothing to hide their weight loss. Check to see if she still “feels fat” even though she is very thin. Girls with this problem often have a distorted view of how they look (thanks to the media).

If you determine that your daughter has a problem, she will probably need psychiatric help and if the problem is severe she may need to be hospitalized for a while to help her gain some weight and begin to see her body image in a different way. Sometimes outpatient family therapy is recommended to change family communication patterns. Your daughter may be trying to exert control over her environment by controlling her eating behavior.
Anorexia needs to be taken seriously since it can be life-threatening if it goes on too long.

Good luck,

Kids Don’t Play With Their Toys

Dear Sara,

I have two preschoolers and way too many toys. Both sets of grandparents are very generous so every occasion brings more toys. I try to keep them organized and pick up every day but the kids just seem to drag them out and then don’t play with them. What can I do to keep down the chaos?

Dear Jennifer,

What might work is to have two or three sets of toys that you rotate. If you have storage space like an attic or garage, store some of these toys away for a while. When you get out a new box of toys these will be new and interesting for your children. If you find that there are things that they really aren’t interested in then pack some things up and give them to the local Good Will. You have more than you need and they can put the money earned toward creating jobs for people who need employment.

You might also start a college fund for your kids and ask the grandparents to cut back on the gifts of toys and donate to your children’s education. I know that they enjoy seeing your children open their presents but children often don’t appreciate their gifts when they have too many.

Son’s Girlfriend Is A Bully

Dear Sara,

My sixteen-year-old son is dating a girl who is really mean to him. She calls him to come over and then leaves before he gets there. He has heard from his friends that she is dating someone else but he still calls her and helps her with her homework (does it for her!). For some reason or another, he still thinks she has feelings for him. How can I make him see that this girl is just using him?

Dear Holly,

This isn’t something that is in your control. Your son likes this girl enough that he is unwilling to see obvious signs that she is using him. He will probably hang in there until she does something that will let him see what is going on. Your son sounds like a nice young man and he will be hurt when the relationship ends but at his age he will learn something from the relationship and move on to the next one. Hopefully he will pick someone who cares about him next time.

Problems At School

Dear Sara,

My youngest son, age six, is having problems with his teacher at school. I don’t have any problem getting him to cooperate at home so I don’t understand what is going on. His teacher has called me to say that he is a behavior problem. I plan to have a meeting with her soon but I really can’t understand his behavior. What can I do to help the situation?

Dear Amy,

Often time children behave in such a way as suits their purpose. You have to ask yourself why your son would behave differently with his teacher. What is he trying to accomplish? Since he is the youngest in the family does he get lots of help from you and his siblings? It may be that his teacher expects him to behave more independently (which is good for him) and he is reacting to this. By acting helpless at home he may have conditioned his family to do things for him that he can very well do for himself.

When you have the conference with his teacher, try to determine where the problem really is. If you find that he is struggling with the school work and feeling frustrated because he can’t keep up, try helping him at home so that he can feel more competent. Sometimes a little extra help is that is needed to help him keep up with his peers. It ‘s possible that he could have some learning or attention problems that you can’t see at home. If his teacher thinks this is a possibility then have your son evaluated. He may need some extra help or medication.

Old Enough To Babysit?

Dear Sara,

My daughter is twelve years old and wants to babysit. She has a younger brother and sister (five and seven) and sometimes watches them for a few hours. She thinks that she should be allowed to go to other people’s houses at night to babysit. I’m not so sure. How do I determine when she’s ready to babysit?

Dear Judy,

There is a big variation in the ages that girls mature. Your daughter may be mature in some areas but not in others. If you trust her with her brother and sister for a period of time then she must be fairly mature. There are some things to think about though. When she is at someone else’s house she may not be as familiar with things she needs to know, like where the first aid supplies are or how to locate the exits. She may also not have close neighbors that she can call on.

I would suggest that she take the Red Cross babysitters class. This will increase her knowledge and give her some hands-on experience. When you think that your daughter is ready (and you know her capabilities best) let her start in your neighborhood with families that she knows fairly well and see how she manages. Be around to support her if she needs advice. I hope everything works out well for her.

Dividing Time With The Car

Dear Sara,

I have two teenage daughters and they have school and social activities where they need to use the family car. There is constant bickering between them about who needs the car the most. I am tired of listening to this. Can you give me a solution as to how to divide car time between them?

Dear Richard,

Maybe the first thing to get across to your girls is that their use of the car is a privilege, not a right and depends on their cooperative behavior. If they can’t be cooperative then neither of them can use the car. Why don’t you try having a weekly calendar or chart that each can write down their activities or when they might need the car. This might make sharing fairer. There should also be some sharing of responsibility involved. They should be included when there are errands to be run or other chores involving the car like washing and cleaning out the interior.

Let them know that if their behavior or attitude is negative (teen girls are notorious for their attitude problems) that their car privilege can be taken from them. Don’t just threaten, do it!

Letting Kids Spread Their Wings

Dear Sara,

My children are getting close to being teens now. I know that I am going to give up some control and let them try their wings soon. My main worry is that they will get into the wrong crowd and end up using drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. So far I am pretty confident that they haven’t done any of this yet. What can I do to protect them from these things that I know can hurt them?

Dear Iona,

Smoking drinking and drugs are not necessarily pushed upon teens but teens respond to what their friends are doing because it seems “cool” and they don’t want to be left out. Having fun and feeling grown-up can be motivating factors. This is also a risk-taking time of life. They think they are invincible. There may not be any overt peer pressure but kids need to be a part of the group.

If you have instilled your own family values into your kids from an early age they may have an inner strength that will keep them from going along with the herd. Let their friends hang out at your house and make them welcome. Teens can be fun and funny and things may be chaotic at times but if they are close by you may be able to have some influence. You can only protect your children for so long and then they will make their own choices.

Is My Son Stealing?

Dear Sara,

I have been finding things in my twelve-year-old son’s room that he cannot afford on his allowance. I am pretty sure that he is stealing them but he denies this and says that his friends have given them to him. I am worried that he will get in trouble with the law if my suspicions are correct. What can I do to get to the bottom of this and make him change his behavior?

Dear Dorie,

Maybe you need to start with a little more investigative work. Pin your son down by asking which friends gave him certain items and call the parents of these friends to confirm his story. If you find that in fact, he is lying then you can help him start paying for the things he has stolen.

If you can figure out which store his ill-gotten gains came from then the best thing to do would be to assist your son in returning the items. Whatever the store’s policy is, he will have to face the consequences. It’s better to take the hard-line now than let him get the idea that he can get away with stealing. If you cannot figure out where the stolen merchandise came from, you might consider having your son work around the house to earn money and then give the money to a church or some charity of his choice.

Whatever method of restitution that you choose your son needs to see that there are consequences for his actions.

My Son Is Too Shy

Dear Sara,

My three-year-old son is very shy and fearful of anyone he doesn’t know. He grabs on to me and hides his face. He thinks that no one can see him then. I would like for him to go to preschool next year so I can go back to work but the way he’s acting now I think it might be too difficult for him. How can I help him get over his fears?

Dear Abbie,

If your son has not been around other children and adults then he doesn’t have any way of knowing who is good or who is bad. If it’s possible he needs to be introduced to small groups of children his age and find out on his own that he can trust people he doesn’t know. See if there is a daycare or preschool group that you could take him to and just let him sit on your lap and watch the other children play. He may hide his face for a while but he will probably be curious enough to watch after he sees nothing bad is happening. Hopefully, he will see that everything is safe enough and he will be brave enough to join in the play. Don’t rush him and let him go at his own pace.

Should I Call Child Protective Services?

Dear Sara,

I am a stay at home Mom. I am the oldest daughter in a family of four children. My younger brother is married to a very immature girl and they have two children ages one and three. I keep these two children when their mother has an appointment or has to go somewhere. The three-year-old has bruises up and down his legs and the one-year-old has bite marks from their dog. I know their Mom sleeps until noon every day. My problem is whether to report them to Child Protective Services or not. What should I do? Please don’t use my name.

Dear Anon,

If you are concerned about these children and feel that this is ongoing neglect that you are witnessing, then you would be wise to contact CPS. Children tend to be very creative in getting into things when left on their own. The bruises are also causes for concern. Children often fall and bruise themselves. Since you have children of your own you would be a good judge of what is out of the ordinary. If the situation doesn’t seem right to you, then go ahead and have Child Protective Services check it out. You can do this without giving your name. Maybe your brother and his wife need a wake-up call as to the safety of their children.